What Happens If You Die Without a Will in California?
- April 21, 2020 - Estate Litigation,
Have You Ever Wondered What Happens If You Die Without a Will in California?
Sometimes we get so busy with daily life that we forget to take time out to plan for big life events, like distribution of our assets after we pass away. Writing a will and creating an estate plan is one of those important things on our list that we intend to get to someday, but there never seem to be enough hours in a day.
Unfortunately, this means some people pass away without a will. So you may be wondering what happens if you die without a will in California? If you die in California without creating a valid will, then you’re said to die “intestate.” This means the distribution of your remaining property and assets will not necessarily proceed according to your wishes. Instead, the distribution will be dictated by the California Probate Code, which identifies the heirs who will inherit your assets. When this happens, your estate is said to go through “probate.”
Probate can be an expensive and slow process, and it can sometimes lead to family disagreements and hurt feelings. That’s why it’s so important to create a will and an estate plan. Some people think you have to be wealthy to need a will, but that isn’t true. Almost everyone benefits from having a will and an estate plan, whether you have $3,000 in assets or $3 million or more. Creating an estate plan is often one of the kindest things you can do for your family and loved ones.
The estate planning attorneys at Hackard Law would be happy to explain the basics of probate law to you. We have helped hundreds of clients plan and litigate estates, and our attorneys have years of successful experience. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you and your family, call us today at 916-313-3030. The initial consultation is free.
If Someone Dies Without a Will in California, Things Get Complicated.
One of the reasons people like having an estate plan is that it ensures the smooth and swift distribution of property and assets. It can also give you an opportunity before you die to discuss and explain your wishes to family members so that there are no unpleasant surprises for anyone after you pass away. Creating an estate plan is a gift that gives your family peace of mind.
An estate plan also puts you in control and doesn’t leave things to chance. That way, you know your wishes are being carried out in specific detail. It lifts a legal burden off your family’s shoulders after you’re gone. They can share fond memories of you and grieve, rather than worrying about the legal issues of probate.
If someone dies without a will in California, then a disinterested judge will divide up their property, money and belongings according to the probate code, which typically identifies a surviving spouse and biological children as the beneficiaries. However, this can get really complicated if you are divorced and remarried, have stepchildren, own a business or have a surviving ex-spouse.
Creating an estate plan also has tax advantages, because you can minimize capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes and reduce your overall tax liability. Legal tools such as trusts can create financial advantages for you while you’re still alive, too.
An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You Contest a Will
If, on the other hand, you’re a family member and you want to contest a will or feel that an estate trustee is misusing their authority, then a Hackard Law attorney can litigate on your behalf. It is not uncommon for a remaining family member to challenge a will in court.
There are many kinds of property — including bank accounts, insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, various kinds of financial investments, real estate, and many other assets. If you believe any of these assets have been distributed inappropriately or if another family member asserted significant influence on a decedent when they were sick or dying, then you can contest a will in court. If this is your situation, an estate planning attorney at Hackard Law can fight aggressively on your behalf to achieve the best outcome possible. Call us at 916-313-3030.
An Estate Plan Is a Living Document That Can and Should Be Updated Periodically
There are several different documents that make up an estate plan, and a will is one of these basic documents. Because your life changes as the years go by, you should revisit your estate plan periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes. Children grow up, people get married, you retire and your opportunities evolve over time. By reviewing your estate plan annually with an attorney, you can make changes and updates that reflect your most current wishes. An estate planning attorney at Hackard Law can assist you with the full spectrum of estate planning needs, including:
- Wills – The foundation of any estate plan and a starting point for providing instructions on how you wish to distribute your assets after you die
- Trusts – Can help you avoid probate and provide additional assurance that someone will manage your assets according to your wishes in the event you can no longer make those decisions
- Advance Healthcare Directives – Name someone to handle decisions regarding medical treatment and your wishes regarding life-sustaining efforts if you become incapacitated
- Durable Powers of Attorney – Name someone to handle financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so
- Business Succession Planning – Creates a viable plan for the continuation of a family business in the event of the retirement or death of the current leader by establishing leadership roles and other key decisions
- Asset Protection – Involves efforts to protect personal assets for future generations, often by separating personal assets from business liabilities.
Call a Skilled Estate Planning Attorney Today
There is no time like the present to get your financial affairs in order, and this includes creating a comprehensive estate plan that lays out your wishes about how you want your assets distributed after you are gone. Rather than leaving things to chance, you can assert control over end-of-life issues while you’re still alive and healthy. Don’t leave your family wondering what happens if you die without a will in California. Instead, give them the comfort of knowing that all of these decisions have been taken care of. An estate plan is a gift you give to your family that creates peace of mind. To talk to an estate planning attorney at Hackard Law, call us today at 916-313-3030. The initial consultation is free.